We next attended a workshop on making black powder rockets and it couldn't have been more fun or educational. Kurt, Marty and I all learned to make a fuel core rocket using a cardboard tube, kitty litter, gunpowder and hammer blows. The making of a black powder rocket (by hand, at least) requires lots and lots of tamping/hammering. The gunpowder has to be packed in the tube extremely tightly and in a specific shape in order to provide the physics necessary to lift it high in the air before it bursts. A special set of tamping tools and a hammer are used to pack small increments of powder in the tube around a tapered spindle. It takes a good bit of muscle and a fair amount of time to fill one up by hand. You also get pretty damn dirty since gunpowder is one of those things that sticks to everything.
After we watched the competition shells, we walked over to the rocket firing range and retrieved our pyro progeny. I had as much fun if not more just being on the firing line, sharing other people's excitement about shooting their rockets, watching delight in shoot their rockets and learning things. Kurt Medlin, who is by far my favorite teacher from the two conferences I've attended, so far stood nearby and was wonderful about explaining the different kinds of rockets we were seeing and how they worked. There were two kinds I particularly liked: the Cadeusus that used two opposing rockets mounted on a single stick to make a beautiful helix shaped tail of sparks and another one called a lampere, which is a rocket that carries a payload of about 20 ounces of liquid fuel, producing a fireball in the sky when it breaks. Kurt, Marty and I all three shot our rockets with great success. The lift was perfect, the break flawless. Mine had silver glitter (the pyro kind) and pink stars (the glowing colored bits). Wahooooooo!!!
The best thing about being on the line, though, is proximity. Being right under those big fireworks when they're lit is such a rush. The fire, the noise, the color. Once in a while, you get lucky and a pyro device breaks either in the tube it's shot out of or just above it, and you're not very far from ground zero for the burst. There were several times while standing on the line Tuesday night that I heard the charge go and then the next thing I knew, glowing sparks had enveloped me and were racing past me. While certainly it's very dangerous (although we wear safety glasses, hard hats and protective clothing), it is also beyond gorgeous. For me, it is a peak experience and I am thrilled every time it happens.